back to article Young blokes blinded by video-game addiction: THE FACTS

"You'll go blind!" many a parent have barked at their sons and daughters for playing video games all day. But military-funded scientists have proved quite the opposite is true. Eggheads at Duke School of Medicine have claimed that gamers are better at processing visual information due to the quick reactions they've built up …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "You'll go blind!" many a parent have barked at their kids for playing video games all day

    I predate most home video games, so they used to say that to me for other reasons.

    Many years later and I'm still not blind :-)

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: "You'll go blind!" many a parent have barked at their kids for playing video games all day

      "I predate most home video games"

      Oh, you predator you!

    2. Havin_it
      Mushroom

      Re: "You'll go blind!" many a parent have barked at their kids for playing video games all day

      I thought that's what they said about wanking...

  2. jake Silver badge

    Actually ...

    On most ranges where we actually fire real-life bullets, we tend to shun the video game set. They are dangerous to onlookers, and themselves. Same for race tracks.

    Why? Simple answer: There is no possibility of saving, and then restarting the game from where you left off in RealLife[tm], after you get killed. For whatever reason, the gamer set doesn't seem to understand that obvious fact.

    1. Malc

      Re: RealLife(tm)...

      RealLife (tm) - Graphics are great, gameplay poor

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: RealLife(tm)...

        ... I find all that 3D stuff gives me a headache (props to xkcd, of course).

      2. jake Silver badge

        @Malc (was: Re: RealLife(tm)...)

        Are you a shut-in?

        Terribly sorry, my post wasn't aimed at you. Are you in my neighborhood? I'll be happy to produce dinner/lunch for you a couple times per month ...

    2. Menelaus-uk
      FAIL

      Re: Actually ...

      Well that's quite a generalization.

      You have obviously never heard of Gran Turismos GT Academy (http://eu.gran-turismo.com/gb/academy/) where they use the game to help select racing driver to compete professionally. It has now been running a number of years and proved highly successful.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Menelaus-uk (was: Re: Actually ...)

        Oh, trust me, I've heard of the Gran Turismos GT so-called "Academy" ... and will never set tire on track with any of the fuckwit "graduates", never again.

        Nothing replaces actual track time. Absolutely nothing.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: @jake

          "Nothing replaces actual track time. Absolutely nothing."

          F1 drivers spend a lot of time on playstations and in simulators. I understand that they are rather good. I'm sure they'd rather have track time but (a) it's expensive and (b) it's banned (except for Mercedes).

          I wouldn't expect the same to hold true for target shooting, but the research doesn't say that.

          Disclaimer. I do not like driving games. I do not own a car. I have only ever fired an air pistol as a kid on one holiday.

          1. AceRimmer

            Re: @jake

            Track time is not just expensive it is also physically exhausting. F1 cars especially have to be driven at speed to remain safe. Of course there is nothing to stop the drivers learning the circuit in a different car but it will still be expensive, exhausting, disruptive and less safe than a simulation.

            Racing circuits in video game are very accurate compared to real life and the drivers can use the games for the monotonous lap churning required to imprint a track on their brain.

            Also, some of the circuits are only open during race week (Monaco, Singapore, Australia) and so the only way to really learn the track.

          2. James Hughes 1

            Re: @jake FUCK

            I find myself agreeing with Jake....that's a first. Although I cannot figure out how he runs 'yoof' camps given he appears to be about 15 years old, on reading his posts.

            But with some caveats. (Disclaimer. I have raced karts and cars, and have shot real bullets - in the UK)

            There are indeed some very good racing drivers who started on video games. And there are some good soldiers who started on video games. You mustn't dismiss people who are good at video games out of hand at not being good at things.

            This is worth a read. http://kotaku.com/5700609/can-a-video-game-make-you-into-an-elite-race-driver

            But there is no substitute for track time, and there is no substitute for actually shooting real bullets/cartridges, if you want to get good at either. BUT, video games can certainly help, otherwise F1 teams wouldn't be spending a fortune on simulators, and the Army wouldn't be spending a fortune on training video games.

        2. Menelaus-uk
          Megaphone

          Re: @Menelaus-uk (was: Actually ...)

          Well thank you for your input, but my point was you can't make such generalizations on one section of society. I was providing a real world case where games have gone on to produce people who honed their skills through playing games.

          Why were the Academy drivers "fuckwits" was it their lack of skill, that they took more calculated risks or were they just plain reckless in your view? Just stating something without facts does not make it true.

          Some more reading if you so choose.

          http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/14/action_games_make_you_a_finer_human_being/

        3. deshepherd

          Re: @Menelaus-uk (was: Actually ...)

          Nothing replaces actual track time. Absolutely nothing.

          Jeremy Clarkson tried this on Top Gear a few years ago after all the reports of F1 drivers learning tracks from "simulators" (though I think the F1 team's simulators are a bit more sophisticated than video games) so he "learnt" a track from something like GT and then went to drive on it - and discovered how very different it was.

          1. AceRimmer

            Re: @deshepherd

            The difference was the sense of danger

            If you know a track and car already then the video game will boost your understanding of the track and reinforce prior learning

          2. Tom 13

            Re: Jeremy Clarkson tried this on Top Gear

            I could have told him that without them having to go all that expense. I've played video race car games and I drive a car. Not on a track, just on the highways. But then he does make considerably more money than I do, so I suppose more power to him.

        4. Aldous
          FAIL

          Re: @Menelaus-uk (was: Actually ...)

          "Nothing replaces actual track time. Absolutely nothing."

          You are joking right? Whilst nothing is equal to actual track time simulations are used extensively to provide accurate (to a point) practice at a reduced expense. This is why F1 teams have simulation rigs running night and day and why airline pilot's are let loose in simulated cockpits.

          There are plenty of idiots who casually given a gun or car do stupid things, 5 minutes on youtube will show you that. In general though if someone is investing a significant amount of money into a hobby they learn pretty quickly the difference between real life and games.

          Anyone that thinks need for speed/call of duty are accurate to any degree would indeed be dangerous. However this is not what the study was pointing at. it is saying that gamers can process and respond quicker then non gamers. This makes sense because even playing call of duty requires people to recognize a situation and make a snap judgment. In the past the average persons exposure to this type of process would have been limited to driving, now they are in that situation on a daily basis.

          The brain is a remarkable thing and evolves based on stimuli. If it spends it's days serenely walking around the countryside it will be slower to recognize and respond then one that is being bombarded by flying bombs, 200 mph turns and braking points or landing approaches, fake ones or real it makes a difference

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          Re: @Menelaus-uk (was: Actually ...)

          Jake,

          I happen to have known a guy who did gt academy for a dozen years or so. He's currently a pro driver. Most of his simulation experience (or at least a good part of it) was with sims like GPL, not pseudo-sims like GT. He's quite careful and very disciplined, and I'd take a real life duel with him over a Jason Plato or Paul Tracy any day.

          Further, my business happens to involve driving simulation. I've personally seen more than a dozen professional drivers evaluate various hardware and software systems; some are quite good. Software in particular is vastly improved over a few years ago; Top Gear's stunt with a console game is as useful as testing an ez bake oven and concluding that it's impossible to cook at home.

          I've also spent time talking to (and doing business with) multiple international level racing teams. The general consensus is that PC driving sims, while not a direct substitute for track time, are representative and useful.

          One problem with being loud on the Internet is that it's a big place, and even if you seem knowledgeable, there's always the chance that if you insult GT Academy drivers and say simulation is useless, a guy who knows such a driver personally and makes his living in the racing simulation business will actually read what you wrote and call your bluff.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: @Menelaus-uk (was: Actually ...)

            If you haven't had your butt in the seat, you can't drive (fly, board, skate, whatever). Period.

            Simulators work for EXPERIENCED pilots testing new scenarios and airframes, but you can't learn on them from scratch. For every 747 or Space Shuttle pilot you show me, I'll show you the same pilot as a kid learning on a small single-engined light plane. Likewise, absolutely zero F1/NASCAR/MotoGP/Le Mans Prototype etc. drivers started playing computer games. They all started by first learning to drive.

            My Wife calls it "butt in the saddle time" when training young equestrians. You just can't duplicate "hands on" when it comes to this kind of thing.

    3. Khaptain Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Actually ...

      @jake

      The solution is easy, hand them a real gun, teach and assist them in how to shoot safely, let them fire a few shots, et voila, they are cured. It's surprisingly easy to rid yourself of these prejudged ideas and you would probably be surprised to learn how good some of them actually are.

      I have never met any gamers that don't make a difference between the game and real-life. It's really just the same as any kid playing with a wooden castle, or toy soldiers or a wooden firetruck.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Actually ...

        "The solution is easy"

        No, it's not. I run several "at risk yoof" camps every year. Most of the kids exceedl at video games. I rarely run across one that I would trust with an actual firearm on my range.

        Real Life guns are NOT the same as playing toy soldiers. Full stop.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: Actually ...

          Hmmn my mate teaches at risk yoofs, I think there's better reasons than them playing video games for not arming them.

    4. Chairo

      Re: Actually ...

      There is no possibility of saving, and then restarting the game from where you left off in RealLife[tm], after you get killed.

      That is not the case for drone pilots, however. At least as long as they don't crush their drone into the control bunker.

    5. Thorne
      Joke

      Re: Actually ...

      "Why? Simple answer: There is no possibility of saving, and then restarting the game from where you left off in RealLife[tm], after you get killed. For whatever reason, the gamer set doesn't seem to understand that obvious fact."

      What are you trying to tell FPS Doug? Anything else? Holding a knife doesn't make you run faster?

    6. Steve I
      Go

      Re: Actually ...

      "...we tend to shun the video game set". Funny that - I tend to shun the "we actually fire real-life bullets" set, who think it's something special. (yes, yes . range firing etc - done all that. Just would never say "I actually fire real.life bullets").

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Steve I (was: Re: Actually ...)

        Knowledge of firearms is not special. They are tools, nothing more.

        Video games? Perhaps not so much ...

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: @Steve I (was: Actually ...) @jake

          Knowledge of anything is special. Applied knowledge, like with a tool, is doubly so as it implies you have learned how to use the tool through practice and improvement as well as acquiring knowledge about what the tool interacts with.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The best thing about gaming

      Is that you can jump past the cut scenes when the boring old git starts waffling on

    8. deshepherd

      Re: Actually ...

      Why? Simple answer: There is no possibility of saving, and then restarting the game from where you left off in RealLife[tm]

      I remember a VW advert when I was in the US in late 90s which promtoed both the "fun" and "safety" features of one of their model and had the tag line "because in real life there is no reset button"

    9. thefutureboy

      Re: Actually ...

      Maybe you should educate rather than alienate "the video game set"?

    10. Fehu
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Actually ...

      Onlookers?!?! Watching other people shoot guns?!?! So, there are actually people who have found an activity more boring than watching grass grow or golf. Who'd of thought it was possible.

      1. Fehu
        Thumb Down

        Re: Actually ...

        Grass watchers are so easily offended!!!

  3. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Angel

    "You'll go blind!"

    I thought video games make square eyes. "Going blind" was something quite different...

  4. Michael Nidd
    WTF?

    Cause and effect?

    "Appelbaum claimed that over time, gamers' ability to process visual stimuli becomes better and better."

    Or people with good ability to process visual stimuli are better at video games, and people who are crap at video games tend to find other things to do. Without a "before" version of this study, it doesn't really say much, does it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Cause and effect?

      Spot on, Sir.

      Further evidence that figures can easily be manipulated by whatever side to represent the finding they want.

    2. Steve I
      Go

      Re: Cause and effect?

      A friend of mine never understood the difference between 'causation' and 'correlation' until I lent him a book on statistics. Now he does and thinks the book is the cause, but I'm not certain...

      1. Combustable Lemon
        Thumb Up

        Re: Cause and effect?

        Someone had to link it didn't they, may as well be me:

        http://xkcd.com/552/

        This aside, i've played at a high level in FPS games for several years (dropped it off in the last 4 or so) and it has to be said that i think there is something in this. I learned to play FPS on a really old game whereby you could gain a significant advantage if you dropped the graphics settings to the point you could see people through the tips of hilltops, the game basically turned into 'who can shoot the pixel' because combat worked from that far away (games like this were way better, shooting another player in the face at 20 meters just doesn't feel skillful compared to this). It took a long time to be able to spot the moving black pixels easily but after a while you can just kind of learn to do it, the interesting part is that the skill is transferable between games. You just seem to gain the ability to detect very small details in large scenes very quickly and it's something i had previously noticed myself. I'd like to see more research in this particular area.

    3. harmjschoonhoven
      Boffin

      Re: Cause and effect?

      We need a double-blind test - definitely.

  5. El Zorro
    Mushroom

    I can't see it catching on, not unless Drones can be engineered for fly-by tea-bagging.

  6. LinkOfHyrule
    Joke

    Little Johnny is playing XBOX One alone in his room....

    Johnny: "Take that bitch!" < he says as he kills another terrorist in Call of Duty.

    xboxOne: "Hey Kid... HEY KID!!!"

    Johnny: "Woah wtf, is that you xbox? Are you talking to me?"

    xboxOne: "Yeah it's me kid, Sgt Ballmer here, first XBOX battalion. We've been watching you for a while Johnny using the cameras in your XBOX Kinnect. We like your style kid, you really know how to kick some butt on Call of Duty!"

    Johnny: "Woah thanks sir!"

    xboxOne: "Say kid, how'd you like to come work for us and fly drones keeping 'merica safe? We could do with a sharp shooting patriot such as yourself..." etc. etc. etc.

    etc!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Little Johnny is playing XBOX One alone in his room....

      The idea of Ballmer as a Sergeant makes me think of that 'out of his depth' guy in Aliens who gets everyone killed.

      1. Havin_it

        @murph Re: Little Johnny is playing XBOX One alone in his room....

        Ripley: How many drops is this for you, Lieutenant?

        Gorman: Thirty-eight. ... Simulated.

        Vasquez: How many combat drops?

        Gorman: Uh, two. Including this one.

        All: Sheeee-it.

        /oblig

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Little Johnny is playing XBOX One alone in his room....

      Shades of the Last Starfighter :-)

      1. LinkOfHyrule
        Joke

        Little Timmy is playing XBOX One alone in his room...

        Timmy: "Awesome I scored another Tetris! woot!"

        xboxOne: "Hey Timmy listen up!"

        Timmy: "hu?!!?"

        xboxOne: "My name is Hans Brix LeBloc - CEO of Thermalite - Europes leading manufacturer of breeze blocks for the construction industry!"

        Timmy: "what the.....!!!"

        xboxOne: "I've been spying on your Tetris games these past few months Timmy and you really have skills me and the guys here at Thermalite think we could use down at our brick making factory!...etc.etc.etc."

        Timmy: "Sod off you perv! MUM THE XBOX IS SPYING ON ME AGAIN!"

        Mum: "It's okay Timmy, I'll call the NSPCC again!"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People who are so against 'virtual training', you do know every time you get on an aeroplane that the lions share of the pilots training is done on simulators? Yes, there are certain aspects that can't be replicated and can only be taught in real life, but you are wrong if you think there aren't large parts of training certain things that can't be done sitting in front of a screen.

    1. Nigel 11

      Depends what you are simulating

      It depends now much you need to experience the neural input of real life physics (kinetics, mostly). For piloting a large ship, a simulator is virtually the same as reality. For an airliner it's close, although there are situations close to disaster where kinetic forces can be felt and reacted to. For a fighter aircraft or racing car, it's far less close. And so on.

    2. Don Jefe
      Happy

      You are kind of correct. Most commercial pilots are ex military, started as bush pilots or both. They learned how to fly in a plane that was flying. Commercial pilots learn about specific aircraft, airline protocols and individual airports in simulators but by and large they already knew how to fly.

      1. Tom 13

        @Don JEfe 13-Jun 11:35 GMT

        That was true until about 10 years ago. These days they tend to start the pilot training in the simulator and only let them fly the real thing after they reach a certain skill level. They claim the end product has similar skill levels. I expect the old way was probably better, but the new way is cheaper, but I could see the simulator as a weed out course so only those who are promising spend time in the more expensive part of the training.

        1. Don Jefe
          Happy

          Re: @Don JEfe 13-Jun 11:35 GMT

          I didn't know that. I certainly think the old way was better as when I was learning being tossed right into flight made me more careful as I could kill myself and/or my instructor :) I see where your coming from with the cost thing though.

        2. Vic

          Re: @Don JEfe 13-Jun 11:35 GMT

          These days they tend to start the pilot training in the simulator and only let them fly the real thing after they reach a certain skill level.

          That is most assuredly not true in any EASA country. Nor, I suspect, is it true in any country covered by the Chicago Convention (which is pretty much all of them).

          Simulators have a huge part to play in teaching pilots to fly expensive equipment, but each and every ATPL minor deity began his or her career in a single-engine piston aircraft and had to demonstrate adequate capability in that before being allowed to progress to the bigger stuff.

          Vic.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      All of mine was done in a real device with real wings. Even night and instrument ratings. My first experience of a simulator was getting a turbine rating - mainly because getting the startups wrong on the real thing is extremely expensive - and even after that the followups were done with a real one.

      Simulators are good for learning the instrument layout of flying busses and how not to prang 'em (they're expsneive to run and even more expensive to break) but the vast majority of actual piloting skills are taught the old fashioned way before one starts using a simulator

      Ditto the F1 guys. They have a shitload of realworld experience before they're even allowed on the team. Simulators are mainly to reinforce "muscle memory".

  8. bitmap animal
    Thumb Up

    Clay pigeon shooting - anecdotal story

    I took my son to Bisley when he was 16 to try clay pigeon shooting. I'm not a regular shooter but have shot on occasion over the years and am OK at it.

    He is a very avid gamer and this was the first time he had handled a real firearm. The instructor said that gamers are often quite good at it; my son went on to have slightly more hits than I did.

    1. Maharg
      Thumb Up

      Re: Clay pigeon shooting - anecdotal story

      Had a similar experience only with a role reversal, when I was younger I was taken by my dad to a shooting range while in Northern Ireland, living in England this was the first time I had used a ‘real’ gun, I was given a go on a rifle and two pistols, one a revolver, one a Berretta imitation from the Czech Republic or somewhere, being an avid ‘gamer’ the first thing I noticed (although I was aware it would happen) was how bloody loud the thing was in a confined space.

      In the end my score was as good as my dad’s, and almost up there with the rest of the more experience shooters, with the revolver and rifle. My score was not as good with the berretta type thing as being left handed the empty casings were ejecting into my face and chest, (not a euphemism) forcing me to close my eyes just before each shot, I did try with my right hand but my aim was worse…

      I put this down the gaming, just like any other simulator, it’s not the real thing, although it does get you used to the basic idea behind the task, so things like adjusting your aim for distance, and the fact I would go slightly to one side, as well as the breathing (in case you don’t know FPS even require you to make the character hold its breath to get a better aim while sighting long distances) was second nature, while these had to be explained to my brother, he also played games, but I assume he would be better if there was a dragon of wizard involved…

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No direct personal experience, of course

    "This is down to skills developed by playing games, particularly first-person shooters that require gamers to make quick decisions about what to blast every second, or so we're told."

    Yeah, OK Jasper, whatever you say.

  10. Beaufin

    Ho about other simulation games?

    I used to play SSX tricky PS2 snowboarding game a lot but worried that if presented with a

    sudden crisis when boarding in real life I might leap of a huge cliff expecting to bounce of the rocks

    and survive.

    1. thefutureboy

      Re: Ho about other simulation games?

      Yeah but at least you'd have Run DMC It's Tricky playing through your mind as you plummeted to your demise.

  11. Beaufin

    Have yet to get a call to join the winter olympic squad though

  12. Tim Parker

    The warnings about ruining eye-sight were about eye strain, e.g. focusing issues, nothing to do with information processing.

  13. Crisp Silver badge
    Trollface

    Bedroom head-shots. (That's not a euphemism.)

    It is now.

  14. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    FAIL

    The point most seem to hjave missed here...

    ...is that they are looking at gamers who can be trained to be drone "pilots". In other words, they want video gamers to go play more video games (but which have real world consequences) because the experience playing video games is almost directly related to the planned job. It's a not a "simulation" of being a pilot or a racing driver.

  15. Sooty

    Flat screen tv changed things

    I used to get what can only be described as blinding headaches growing up playing computer games. The issue was getting eye strain from sitting close and staring at a 50/60htz crt tv/monitor for hours on end. As soon as CRT went up to higher refresh rates it got better, and went away completely with flat screens that don't flicker.

    It may not affect everyone as much, but I can actually see a 60htz monitor flickering, and its uncomfortable to even look at one now.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Flat screen tv changed things

      Most people can see 70Hz flicker on CRTs in peripheral vision but it has more to do with short-persistence phosphor and the "beam" being a tiny moving spotlight than anything else (I have to crank 'em to 85Hz to get completely rid of flicker. They didn't give headaches at lower rates but were irritating when moving eyes around)

      The "fix" for slow refresh rates is to use longer persistence phosphors, but the tradeoff was the dot pitch was lower and power consumption higher.

      Most analogue LCDs refresh between 40 and 60Hz, but because usually all the pixels stay on until refreshed again (there's a A-D converter inside. What's fed to the LCD is digital and usualy a frame behind the signal being fed in), flicker is seldom an issue even at extremely low refresh rates. For digital connections it's even less of an issue.

      Gamers get good at picking up sutble nuances in what they're playing. Toss them in a newscenario and they often have to start over. It's no different to watching a movie 30 times and picking up more and more background stuff each time. I suspect the main attraction for the Military of using gamers for drone work is they already have a feeling of disconnect and don't feel as guilty afterwards when they actually kill a real person (anyone who says they arent adversely affected is either suffering from major disconnect/sociopathy or trying to make you feel better)

  16. Maty

    The difference

    Real life != computer games.

    For example, xBox war simulations are about killing the enemy. Real-life warfare is about finding comfortable boots.

  17. Rab Sssss
    Alert

    while...

    Yeah I can see avid gamers getting better at pattern recogniton, but yeah actually putting rounds downrange? Not so much...

    I have however used a "virtual range" training setup when I was in but was using .22 conversions in a small indoor range when i was in. God I hope its improved since ;-)

  18. Frogmelon

    I've always thought my experience with raiding and PVP helps my reaction times whilst driving.

    The ability to process multiple things going on at the same time, spatial location requirements, forward planning and the ability to react to unexpected developments in a very short space of time.

    And I'm great at not standing in stuff on the floor. I missed a big doggy-do yesterday morning on the way to work.

  19. Mike 137

    Valid research?

    The validity of this kind of research depends entirely on the nature of the population from which the samples are drawn. If for example, we draw both the experimental sample and the control sample from a population of extremely unperceptive people who generally just mooch around with their eyes half shut (aka students), those who play video games might well score higher than those who don't. Were the samples to be drawn from a society of hunter-gatherers or orchestral musicians, a different outcome might be expected.

    A damn sight too much social and behavioural science research ignores this key issue. It's entirely wrong to assume that the whole human population behaves identically - regardless of delightful that assumption is to politicians and marketeers.

  20. Xxeno

    Fast reactions but high risk takers?

    One thing I noticed in myself as being in at the near beginning of 'gaming' is the propensity to shoot first and ask questions later, also you can always 'Reset' right! ? Not sure they are good for any real life scenarios especially done control.

  21. Xxeno

    Wtf ! Reboot!

    One thing I noticed in myself as being in at the near beginning of 'gaming' is the propensity to shoot first and ask questions later, also you can always 'Reset' right! ? Not sure they are good for any real life scenarios especially drone control.

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